By Malavika Neurekar
A large number of stories posted previously have focused on the collection at Goa Chitra, whether it is was regarding visitors’ interaction with the display or the process of acquiring an individual object. The reason that ‘collection and documentation’ has been such a highly emphasized aspect of Goa Chitra Rewind has a lot to do with the number of people involved in the process. In spite of his early inclinations, building the collection was not the curator’s solo journey. All over Goa, he enlisted the help of those who could besthelp out in specific areas. Searching and collecting in the Ponda Taluka, Victor teamed up with Mr. Kanta Gawde; on his trips to Canacona, Mr. Mahendra Phaldesai provided his expertise; in Sanguem, he was accompanied by Mr. Maurice Murray; and in Pernem by Adv. Andre Pereira. Similarly, much of the Chitra collection is credited to one such man – Mr. Rafael Viegas.
Rafael Viegas and Victor Hugo Gomes are distant relatives, but they only really got acquainted with each other when Victor reached out for help with the research and documentation for Goa Chitra. Viegas belongs to that breed of Goans who saw, felt, lived the Goa that Victor so often reminisces about. Victor, who holds Rafael Viegas in high regard, believes him to be one of the last few of an exalted generation.
Mr. Rafael Viegas was born in Portuguese Goa in a family of bhatkars (landlords), who used to cultivate the land directly with the help of the agricultural labour. His father pursued journalism and against the backdrop of the imminent India takeover, Rafael steered himself in the direction of the Civil Services. With members of the family moving out of the agriculture profession, the land was eventually taken over by tenants. All the implements that were previously employed were now set aside, no longer of any practical use. When Victor realised that Viegas possessed many of the objects required for the museum, he opened up about his vision of opening Goa Chitra. Rafael donated to Goa Chitra several implements – such as the handdo or the wooden harrow.
Visiting Rafael Viegas in his traditionally Goan home and conversing with him over tea, I recognise a common streak between him and Victor Hugo Gomes. He has copies of Illustrated Weekly dating as far back as the 1960s, all stacked neatly in chronological order. He talks animatedly about the ceramic plates that now adorn the walls, and the antique coffee table in his living room, and the value we attach to ‘old’ things. Another impressive feature is his bookcase, crammed with books in Portuguese and English. I am told that at the end of every monsoon, all these books are laid out in the sun by Rafael and his wife in order to air them out. The common streak between the two men is this tendency – be it out of habit or as a conscious decision – to preserve, to hold on. He believes that the younger generation needs to develop the “vein” to be sensitive towards culture, tackling it with care and retaining the favourable aspects. Towards the end of our conversation, he echoes a concern previously voiced by several others. Parodying a common slogan of the 1960s India, he asks rhetorically “after Victor, Who?” What is the future of Goa Chitra? One hopes that the answer to this question, when it arrives, will be carefully considered and timely.